ALOHA SHUTS CARGO
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
At Aloha Air cargo's loading dock, Ronald Carino, left, picked up produce flown from Maui yesterday, helped by Aloha employee Kendra Fischer.
Stunning end comes suddenly for workers
Many employees find it hard to say goodbye to clients and friends
Aloha Cargo employees appeared stunned after learning from the news media late yesterday afternoon that they were about to lose their jobs.
Employees said they had not heard anything from the company, but the news came down at about 4:40 p.m. from U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Shortly after, a group of union representatives arrived to deliver the news.
"You accept these things, but it's so scary when you've done one thing for 33 years," said a gray-haired Aloha Cargo building maintenance worker. "Here we are, half an hour later, and we're on the street.
"I can't explain what it feels like," he said, tapping his hand to his heart.
Harry Shupe, vice president of the Airline Employees Local Lodge 1245 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, who helped deliver the news, said, "In a matter of hours, they found out. I worked at the terminal, and we knew it was going to happen in a matter of days."
"It's a sad day," said Shupe, an Aloha customer service agent and 36-year veteran. "We thought we were going to save 300 jobs, but now it's not going to happen."
He and others embraced fellow employees one last time. Some shook hands while others cried.
But 45-year-old Harold Tavares, a senior cargo supervisor, tried to keep his composure.
"I'm just trying to hold my face up so they don't see me, because I know it's going to hit them when they go home and realize they don't have to go to work tomorrow," he said.
"I'm just trying to keep any positive look of hope, but there's no hope now," said Tavares, who would have made 21 years in June.
He hugged a co-worker, who brushed tears from her eyes, then reminded her to seek unemployment benefits.
Tavares said he and others volunteered to come in today. "If you come in, it's for love," he told fellow employees. "I just want to come in just to do something. This has been my life."
But saying goodbye to customers was just as tough.
"Some of our freight forwarders, I cannot look them in the eye because they've been with us for a long time," Tavares said.
Tavares said because of his seniority, he was not worried about being bumped by someone more senior from the passenger side to cargo.
Morning shift workers trickled in to pick up their things.
Guy Minakami, a customer service agent for 18 years, said: "It's the pilots who drove the investors away. I'm sure everybody is going to blame the pilots right now. At least part of Aloha had been saved.
"We thought cargo was going to survive," he said. "Only last week we learned terminal was going to have seniority over cargo. For most people down here, we would be out of a job anyway."
He predicted that with the loss of Aloha Cargo, a lot of small wholesalers are going to be out of business as well.
One employee, apparently upset over the fresh news, said bitterly, "All I want to say is, 'Thank the pilots for helping us.'"
Another who declined to give his name said: "It's just a sad day in the state. We all gave over 30 years to this company, and a company like go! can come in and wreak havoc for the state.
"They're not doing well themselves," he said. "Fares are still going to go back up."
Steven Kegley, 53 and with Aloha Cargo for 33 years, said, "I'm really disappointed. A lot of kids are starting their careers here, and I wanted to end my career here."